South Africa Gets its First Domestically-Built Modern Naval Vessel

File image courtesy Damen

Published May 20, 2022 6:52 PM by The Maritime Executive

South Africa is celebrating its shipbuilding industry after Damen Shipyards Cape Town delivered the first of three multi-mission inshore patrol vessels (MMIPVs) to the South African Navy.

In a major achievement towards the country’s ambitions of building navy ships locally, the navy announced it has taken delivery of the first MMIPV vessel, which will enhance its capabilities to respond to the threats of illegal trafficking, illegal fishing and piracy.

SAS Sekhukhune is one of three Warrior Class vessels procured by Armscor, the acquisition agency for the South African Department of Defense. Armscor is investing $225.7 million for the three ships. South Africa is using the project to create a capability to build ships on the continent instead of importing ships and parts, primarily from suppliers in Europe and Asia.

“The construction of the vessel by Damen Shipyards affirms the South African shipbuilding capability to the global community and puts South Africa on the map in terms of its shipbuilding capacity,” said the Navy in a statement.

The South African Navy has repeatedly complained about the construction of its frigates in Germany, something that has often meant parts had to be sourced from Europe and paid for in foreign currency, often leading to delays.

Damen was contracted in January 2018 to deliver the three vessels. SAS Sekhukhune is the first to be delivered to the Simon’s Town naval base, where it will be formally commissioned next month and moved to Naval Base Durban, the home base for the patrol squadron. The vessel concluded sea trials in February and exceeded specified performance.

The shipyard, a subsidiary of Dutch defense, shipbuilding and engineering conglomerate Damen Group, is expected to deliver the remaining two MMIPVs in June 2023 and September 2024 respectively. 

One of the conditions of awarding the contract to Damen was the requirement to include 60 percent local content (excluding high-end items such as marine engines, propulsion systems, electronics systems and generators).

Armscor has an option to order additional inshore patrol vessels from the shipyard at the same price as the first three, although it has until July to make the orders.

The 600 ton MMIPV has a maximum speed of 26 knots, a range of 4,000 nautical miles, 14 days endurance and can accommodate a crew of up to 62. The vessels will be used for patrol and protection of the country’s coastline from threats of trafficking, illegal fishing and piracy.